City Aims to Predict, Prevent Water Main Breaks

Technology may soon be available that could prevent those damaging pipe breaks

A pilot program in San Diego could hold the key to preventing destructive and costly water main breaks.

There were nearly 100 water main breaks in San Diego in 2012 and there have been more than 100 per year on average over the last 5 years.

But soon technology may be available that could prevent those damaging pipe breaks.

“It’s going to make your life easier because you're not going to wake up and find a big pothole in your neighborhood," Brady said.

Rick Brady has been planning city water projects for the past 20 years.

Now he's working to develop a system that could prevent water main breaks like the one in the Midway District six months ago that shut down a hotel and left its ground floor rooms unusable.

Brady's system would pinpoint leaks before they become major by using high-tech software that analyzes data from water meters.

It's a pilot project with the city.

For one year they focused on one section of San Diego and replaced every water meter with a so-called "smart meter.”

The smart meters sent minute by minute information to a software program that organized the data and Brady's company analyzed it.

He says the primary purpose for the system would be to detect where water was being lost but the added benefit is preventing water main breaks.

"Once you input the information about the type of pipe, the size of pipe the age it was installed the computer will start and pressures that its experiencing - the computer program will start to predict there's going to be a failure here," Brady said.

The city estimates they lose about 10-percent of their water but they were actually losing around 35-percent in the area studied in the pilot project Brady said.

He plans to present the findings of the study to the city early this summer.

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